With the New York Knicks on pace for their first playoff appearance in seven years, it’s easy to forget that they’ve also got two first-round picks in the 2021 NBA Draft.
If the draft were to take place today, those picks would come at 21st and 22nd overall.
Whether they compile them into one higher selection via trade, or use both picks on separate prospects, there’s reason to be optimistic about the team’s direction, both the immediate window and their future longterm.
In his latest for Bleacher Report, 3 Realistic Draft Targets for Every NBA Team, Jonathan Wasserman hand-picked three draft prospects for each of the NBA’s 30 teams.
When it came to the New York Knicks, he went with three relatively well-known names: Josh Giddey, Jared Butler, and Ziaire Williams.
Regarding the first of the three, Wasserman suggested it would take some moving up into the middle of the first round. New York’s currently slated to have two first-round picks (one via Dallas), both on the later side of 20:
Giddey could be playing himself out of the New York Knicks’ draft range, but with another first-round pick via the Dallas Mavericks, they could have enough to move up. At 18 years old, he just recorded his first triple-double on Sunday, and while his stat-stuffing versatility is fun, it’s his special passing and playmaking instincts for a 6’8″ ball-handler the Knicks would value most.
Giddey, a 6-8 combo guard, spent the last year with the Adelaide 36ers of Austrailia’s National Basketball League.
Fans will no doubt remember that LaMelo Ball, this year’s Rookie of the Year frontrunner spent the 2019-2020 season with the same club. Giddey averaged 11 points, 7.4 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game, and is currently ranked 13th on ESPN’s Top-100 NBA Draft Rankings.
A fan favorite, Wasserman also selected Ziaire Williams out of Stanford. The definition of a prospect, he would be an upside pick for New York:
Alec Burks and Reggie Bullock have been value signings for the Knicks, but it wouldn’t hurt to draft a young wing to develop. Williams, a 6’8″ 2-guard or small forward, has an appealing skill set for shooting and ball-screen play. He’d just need some time to improve his execution/consistency and body.
Williams played 20 games his freshman season and averaged 10.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game.
His 29 percent shooting average from behind the arc doesn’t inspire much confidence, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Knicks, equipped with two picks in the first round, to make a high-upside selection.
The most intriguing prospect mentioned by Wasserman is point guard Jared Butler. He’s coming off of a junior campaign where he averaged 16.7 points, 4.8 assists, and two steals per game for a Baylor team that went as far as the Final Four:
The Knicks could use Butler to set the table or play off the ball to space the floor. Even with the emergence of Immanuel Quickley, Butler’s improved playmaking, shooting and defense could be useful for New York’s bench, particularly if the team doesn’t make any big free-agent signings.
During the NCAA tournament back in March, Wasserman actually compared Butler to 13-year veteran George Hill:
While Butler lacks burst off the dribble and explosiveness at the rim, he compensates with skill versatility and IQ just as Hill does. He’s also made noticeable progress as a defender to improve his chances of emerging as a full-time starter in the right situation.
His defensive focus could make for a nice fit next to rookie Immanuel Quickley, both in the short and longterm. If the New York Knicks don’t land a point guard in free agency, or via trade ahead of the draft, Butler will be a name to watch.
Updated Knicks Playoff Odds
After their win over the Chicago Bulls, the New York Knicks improve to 35-28 and the Eastern Conference fourth-seed.
According to Five Thirty Eight’s forecast, their chances at making the playoffs have climbed to 91 percent.
But the website is still giving the team a less than one percent shot at making and/or winning the 2021 NBA Finals.
That number could increase if they retain homecourt going into the postseason.
New York’s currently got a game lead over the fifth-seed Atlanta Hawks, with a two-game lead over both the sixth-seed Boston Celtics and the seventh-seed Miami Heat.
So it seems a playoff appearance is a near-lock for the Knicks, who’ve missed the cut in seven consecutive seasons.
However, what seed they end up entering in as remains up in the air.
Tankathon.com has New York’s remaining schedule as the seventh-toughest in the entire NBA. Nine games to go.
READ NEXT: Knicks’ Julius Randle Leads NBA in Quintessential Star Statistic